Tag Archives: bacon

Lasagna Sandwich 2.0

(Thanks to Tesco/NYDN for the image...)

Last week, a lasagna sandwich in the U.K. made headlines here in the U.S. And it got me thinking…what other main course meals would make good — or at least potentially lucrative — sandwiches?

I personally think you can’t do much wrong when you add stuff to grilled cheese or a panini…so, with that in mind, if the Tesco food development team is looking for additional entree-inspired sandwiches, I’d suggest…

– The Taco Sandwich: Some seasoned beef or chicken, pico de gallo…maybe a little guacamole and/or sour cream…and some melted cheese? A worthy experiment. (Although maybe this is actually a burrito?)

– The Meatloaf Sandwich: A slice of Mom’s meatloaf and a scoop of mashed potatoes. And, again, grill that sucker with some cheese. (And maybe have ketchup on the side for dipping?)

– The Fried Chicken Sandwich: Lest this sound like the KFC Double Down, I’d like to point out that I’m thinking of this more like Thanksgiving leftovers. I love making turkey sandwiches the next day with a little mashed potato, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. I’m sort of thinking of that chicken-mashed-potato-corn-bowl-thing KFC put out awhile back — something with all of those components, but in a grilled cheese sandwich. Although, then again, you might be able to get away without cheese on this one.

– The Mac-and-Cheese-and-Bacon Sandwich: When I think of basic meals and/or entrees for those first starting out cooking for themselves, macaroni and cheese is one of the first that comes to mind. But a macaroni and cheese sandwich is weird. But then I thought, “Bacon!” and it suddenly made more sense. Sure, it’s a lot of carbs…but if you grill it up or put it in a panini press and get the inside all gooey and stuff, I think it might be worth the splurge and/or less odd. (Then again, bread and pasta may just not work together…but, then again [again], if people fry spaghetti, why can’t I pair macaroni and cheese with bread?)

– The Steak and Chimichurri Sandwich: Perhaps like a Philly cheesesteak, but with an Argentinian twist?

– The Chicken Tikka Sandwich: Like Indian takeout, but between two slices of bread. (I guess I could perhaps suggest using naan, but I’m not sure how well that would grill up.) Perhaps a dab of yogurt on top and that potato-pea-chickpea mixture that comes in samosas, too?

– The Fried Halibut Sandwich: I discovered fried halibut at the Alaska Salmon Bake in Fairbanks and was completely amazed by it. I’d always been ho-hum about fish and chips, but fried halibut is crazy-good. I think if you have some cole slaw and a little tartar sauce, you’d be all set.

So, Tesco, let’s talk? I’d love an excuse to finally come back to the U.K…

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Good Eats: Or, New York with Bobby, Junior, Florence, Mario and Tina.

So…my mother was here last week, which means I got to indulge in a New York lifestyle drastically different from the norm. To wit: I got up and dressed every single day and didn’t once look for a job or do any copywriting or tinker with my book proposal. Instead, I went to restaurants under the purview of celebrity chefs and saw shows on Broadway. I would imagine I would eventually run out of shows and/or get bored if this was my regular life, but…from here, the grass looks pretty green.

Our first stop was Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. I’ve probably walked by this place a million times, but I’ve never been inside. However, I’ve been meaning to ever since I was at work (or in a class) once and my mom was exploring the city on her own and stumbled upon it and was super-excited and ended up doing a big, brave thing and eating there on her own. So…after six years, I finally ate there. I was really happy with my chile relleno — stuffed with eggplant and rolled in cornmeal! — but my mom was a little disappointed with her sweet potato ravioli…which was a shame as it is the one dish that jumped out on the menu to me, too. I’ve sort of had a complex about chile rellenos since eating at a Mexican restaurant in Wisconsin that served an extremely eggy one. As we all know, I HATE EGGS. So…it freaked me out and sort of put me off chile rellenos for a while. But my mother quoted somebody — possibly Bobby Flay — who said that you really shouldn’t be able to taste the egg in a good chile relleno…and she/he was right. (I also really enjoyed the barbed-wire tiles in the bathroom. Nice touch, BF.)

That night we went to the Grand Central Oyster House…which is another one of those places I have heard about for ages but have never actually tried. I don’t honestly remember where all of the oysters came from — although I’m pretty sure two were from the East coast and two were from the West. Either way, it came with mignonette…which is my favorite part about oysters. I had it for the first time at Elliott’s Oyster House in Seattle years ago…and that was it. I was sold. I also had scallops (which I am told my father liked…which is worth mentioning solely because the whole reason my mom came out to NY was to walk with me in the Light the Night Walk in his memory/honor and so I could perhaps exorcise a demon or two) and my mom got a white fish that came with chunks of bacon on top. Both, again, were very, very good…and we were early because we had tickets to Jersey Boys (still hadn’t seen it!) and I imagine it gets pretty cozy in there as the night goes on, but it seems like it would be fun to meet up there for drinks and oysters after work someday. (Also? There is a red lip-shaped couch in the bathroom.) After the show, we hit up Junior’s for cheesecake…and my mom was very excited to see an autographed photo from Bobby Flay. So…it was like the whole day came full circle.

The next day we got lunch at Bagels by the Park and headed out for the God of Carnage matinee. (Loved it! So good! And so funny! Despite the sort of Heart-of-Darkness point of it all…) We had some time to kill afterward, so we hit up the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Times Square (it was either that or Madame Tussaud’s…and the guy at the door gave us $5 off each ticket)…and I guess we should have known better as it was pretty much a huge letdown. Or, rather, there was a lot of uncomfortable stuff: people with really unfortunate physical abnormalities; a room that traps you inside; torture devices; and weird medical situations. There was one breast implant display with a pair of boobs that inflated at the push of a button…otherwise, a big miss. Then I tried to take Ma to the Rainbow Room, but it’s apparently closed for awhile? (Kind of ironic that the Web site says, “Then. Now. Forever,” eh?) And so we opted instead for the revolving lounge atop the Marriott Marquis…and wouldn’t you know it? Florence Henderson was there. Small world. So…we had a drink there and tried to determine which building was which and whether Florence did anything besides the Brady Bunch and Wesson Oil (I have a “Christmas Carols” refrigerator magnet that includes Ms. Henderson, Carol Burnett, Carol Channing and Carroll O’Connor).

THEN we went to Mario Batali’s Spotted Pig as my mom really, really, REALLY likes Mario Batali. We had to wait at the bar for a bit, but it wasn’t a big deal as two seats opened up right away…almost like fate! We had oysters *again* and my mom was thinking about getting pork belly, but our server told us it was pretty fatty…so she ended up with a fish again and I got chorizo-stuffed quail with goat cheese pudding. Pretty amazing. Although the kitchen was churning out burger/fries like they were going out of style. And the guy at the table next to us could not have been any more smarmy and sort of reminded me why I’ve vowed to be the Lone Wolf for awhile. (We also finished things off with a stop by Magnolia Bakery so my mother could have one of the cupcakes made famous by you-know-what.)

On our last full day, we had a late lunch at Chevy’s and dinner after the walk (So cold! But Tina Fey was there!) at an Italian restaurant in my neighborhood that Guilia Melucci wrote about in “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.” We had tried to get in to Buttermilk Channel, which used to be a place called Cafe Scaramouche where I had brunch sort of on a regular basis with my friend Bob and ordered pancakes with caramelized orange peel that he called “pancakes in drag.” But it’s apparently quite a hot spot as the wait was an hour and we were cold, starving walkers, so we sought out the quiet Italian joint.

And then that was it. Mom went back to Tucson and I went back to reality. Still have a little linguine left over…but then it really is back to my own cookin’. Good thing I’m still really excited about my Trader-Joe’s-in-the-middle-of-the-day epiphany…

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A Consistent Bacon Theme…with the Best Burgers in Chicago and Pies to Boot.

My fat-themed trip to Chicago began with K meeting me at O’Hare with a pumpkin spice latte (say what you will about Starbucks, but it’s become a rite of fall…), which was absolutely perfect as my flight from Denver left at 6:40 and I needed just a *little* more coffee to really feel like Lisa.

Our first stop was Vosges, a chocolate shop with the tag line “Haut Chocolate.” We were there specifically for a bacon bar, but discovered there were actually several to choose from — milk, dark and caramel toffee. I don’t actually remember which of the chocolates I liked better with the bacon bits (it’s sweet and salty…which is one of the reasons I used to love Take 5 so much…), but I generally like milk chocolate better, so that was probably it. The bacon caramel toffee was certainly good, but we couldn’t tell there was any bacon in it…which may defeat the purpose of actually buying bacon chocolate. But, in the end, neither one of us was compelled to buy a whole bar…in part because I could not tell how much they were…and if I had to ask, maybe I couldn’t afford it? (Turns out they’re about $7.50 each…so it might be worth it as a special treat for bacon lovers.)

From there, we stopped off at Dominick’s (…which sells Safeway products! A nice little kickback to my California roots…) for pie ingredients. K is participating in the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest on October 18 and wanted some pointers. I told her the one big thing I learned from the 2007 APC Crisco National Pie Championships — Plain apple won’t do it. You HAVE to have something unique and/or distinctive. — and we found a recipe on Epicurious for a Deep-Dish Caramel Apple Pie. (She actually used her iPhone to do it…which made me long for one even more…but then I worry that I will never be able to make calls in my apartment as the reception is so bad…and I continue to hem and haw…)

We used my aunt’s crust recipe…and, in all honestly, all I think K needs to do is practice a bit to get her confidence up…and *maybe* purchase a few tools (a pastry blender! a pie crust shield! a silpat liner!). Otherwise, the only advice I gave was the standard “make sure your water is really, really cold” and “don’t let the dough get too sticky.”

And…even though the recipe does not call for an upper crust, we improvised a bit and added one…and I think the pie was better for it. It was definitely a memorable spin on standard apple.

After baking, we hit up the Bristol…which allegedly serves a Bacon Manhattan for brunch. We thought maybe we could ask nicely and they would serve us one anyway for happy hour, but, alas, the barkeep said he did not have the right bacon-infused booze on hand. He later let me try some bacon-infused scotch (and the brunch menu says the Bristol’s Manhattan is made with bacon-infused Dewar’s, so…?)…and I told him I liked it better than regular scotch — the truth! — but I did not tell him that I do not like regular scotch. The bacon infusion sort of took the edge off of it…and totally made it drinkable. (Another bonus? They had duck fat fries…which I have been unable to try at Hot Doug’s for TWO consecutive Chicago trips. [They are only served on weekends.])

After meeting up with K’s new husband, we headed over to Kuma’s Corner for what was supposed to be one of the best burgers in Chicago. I don’t like eggs, so the Kuma Burger (with fried egg) was out, but it was really hard to decide between the YOB and Iron Maiden and Neurosis (among others). In the end, I went for the Iron Maiden and K ordered the Neurosis…and both were really, really good…on the order of not-much-talking, lots-of-eating kind of good. I was at Subway once with a guy (hey, big spender…) who was sort of shocked that I ordered a sandwich with everything on it…so, what can I say? I like lots of stuff. I actually kind of wish I lived closer to Chicago so I could try some of the other combinations at Kuma’s. Worth noting in so many words: Definitely worth the trip if you’re in the area.

With bellies full of burgers, K’s husband dropped us off at the Green Eye, where we continued to catch up and whatnot…and we were thrilled to see it had one of those collegiate banners hanging from behind the bar that said, “Bacon!” (The theme continues!) And…I’ll blame it on the bacon-infused scotch, I guess, but it maybe seemed like I had nothing to lose by contacting Wall-E at that point…although it was kind of weird when he showed up and I think I was maybe kind of mean and ignored him a little. So. There ended that.

The next day, our first stop was the Hoosier Mama Pie Company…which K had emailed me about long, long ago. We were both kind of sick of sweet stuff — we had, after all, had pie for breakfast — but they had a peach raspberry pie…which contains, like, my two favorite fruits of all time…so I couldn’t not get a piece. (K, for her part, got a slice of bacon quiche.)

We couldn’t eat it right then and there though — so we dropped off the baked goods at K’s house and headed downtown…where K had the brilliant idea of eating at Rick Bayless‘ new restaurant, Xoco. We had to wait in line for a good long while (and a ballsy woman pulled up in a Corolla and wanted someone to give her menus and phone numbers)…but it was totally worth the wait. (Plus, RICK BAYLESS HIMSELF was working in the kitchen…so we were sort of able to gawk while we waited…) K had the choriqueso, I had the milanesa…and by the time we actually had seats, it was another one of those no-talking, more-eating moments. We were approached by a WGN reporter at the end of the meal who wanted to talk about our food. Unfortunately, nerves got the better of me and I sounded like that version of myself that I hate…and even though it didn’t come out very clearly to WGN, it *is* true that my mother LOVES Rick Bayless and that my torta was really good…I just couldn’t think of any other way to describe it while on the hot seat. Perhaps I’ll give it another go here: it was kind of like a grilled cheese sandwich, but with this tomatillo sauce that gave it a little zing…or maybe you could even think of it as a Mexican spin on an Italian cutlet sandwich?

K and I did some kind of arty, shoppy stuff in the afternoon…and then, finally, we more or less ended everything with a trip to (O)enology at the InterContinental Chicago for — that’s right — more chocolate-covered bacon. One of my classmates had tweeted or Facebooked or somethinged about trying chocolate-covered bacon in Chicago…and so we knew we had to add ENO to our fat list, too. And, you know what? It had one of those menus that seems like it would be really fun to write (Another? Le Peep.) and I would totally dig a job like that…except, even though I realize they have a schtick, I might feel kind of like a schmuck with the whole “Wine. Cheese. Chocolate. Sensation.”-thing. Regardless, the chocolate-covered bacon was only available with the “Wine and Swine” Chocolate Sensation…and so that is what we ordered (along with flights called “Tickled Pink” and “Ring Around the Rose”). It also came with a shiitake truffle…which I was not sure about…but our waiter (who looked like Bradley Cooper from afar) assured us we’d wish it had *more* mushroom. I can’t say I really tasted any shroom…it was pretty much just chocolate. And the chocolate-covered bacon was, you know, good. Same sort of sweet/salty combo as before…but perhaps with more salty this time as there was more meat…and it was covered in dark chocolate…which I suppose was a nice complement to the higher chocolate:bacon ratio?

And then that was it. I had to go home and eat leftover burger and pack so I could wake up super-early and fly back to NY. (And I will share my thoughts on *that* momentarily…)

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Fat Chicago

So…I am about to go to Denver for a friend’s wedding. And…when I was booking my ticket, I noticed that American Airlines routed me through Chicago on the way back. And it just so happens that one of my favorite people lives in Chicago…and the last time I saw her, she was getting married…so it didn’t really count as a Seeing K trip, you know? So…I asked if she minded if I stay with her for a few days on my way back to NY…et, voila.

Then — the power of social networking! — I saw on Facebook that my friend J had tried chocolate-covered bacon…and so I told *her* how exciting it was to hear as I had missed the chocolate-covered bacon at the Wisconsin State Fair…and she said she had it in Chicago! So! It appears I will have another shot at chocolate bacon!

I wasn’t sure how K would feel about the bacon as she seems like a woman of refined taste. But she didn’t flinch. In FACT, she pointed out that there is a brunch spot in Chicago where you can get a bacon martini…and that because there is so much fat and so many fat people in Chicago that we could do an entire fat-themed trip!

Which clearly is amazing.

Last year, an editor suggested I get the duck fat french fries at Hot Doug’s in Chicago (and I can’t not point out after linking to it that the Web site says it is “The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium”)…but, alas, Doug only serves those fries on weekends and so K and I were out of luck. I am going to miss them *again* on this trip (I guess me and duck fat aren’t meant to be…), but I am optimistic there’s plenty of other fat to choose from on weekdays. K even dug up this milk chocolate bacon bar at Vosges. It turns out this is *not* the same as the chocolate-covered bacon J referenced — she said she had it at the Intercontinental? But J *also* said she was going to recommend Vosges. So! Small world.

Do *you* have a tip about what to do on a fat-themed tour of Chicago? Tell me! Don’t be shy!

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July’s Most Memorable Food…

Well, here we are: August and I haven’t posted nothin’ in a real long time.

I have another good excuse though!

I mean, partially it’s because I feel no one in the universe reads this except for my mother (which is a scene right out of Julie & Julia! Except that in the Nora Ephron/Julie Powell version, people actually *do* start reading eventually)…

But it’s also because I’ve been on the road. With my mother. In a giant trailer. (You know, like you do…)

And I certainly can’t sum up the whole trip in a measly blog post…but I can hit some highlights.

First? Nick’s Bar-B-Q & Catfish in Carlisle, Arkansas. Whoa. SO good. I felt like I was back at Penn’s in Brandon, Miss. A welcome change from all the McDonald’s (remember, kiddos, we were 52 feet long and needed big parking lots that were easy-on, easy-off…), but also one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. Everything was fried though — fried catfish, fried pickles, fried okra and fried pies. Well worth the splurge…though it’s probably a good thing I don’t actually live there. It was so memorable, in fact, that I brought my catsitter a bottle of Nick’s barbecue sauce. (Even though I didn’t try the barbecue…)

Next? Chocolate-covered bacon at the Wisconsin State Fair. They also had TONS of fried goodies…from s’mores to cheese to green beans. In fact, I tried my first fried Snickers bar at this fair (which my mother kept calling “frickers” and “frandy bars”)…and I had part of the traditional cream puff. I was really excited about the chocolate-covered bacon though — totally intrigued. It seemed like one of those things I had to try so I could report back to everyone who was sending me links to news stories about it…but, alas, the chocolate-covered bacon stand did not immediately make itself known to us…and after a long day at the fair, most people in my party were ready to head home. And since, like Nick’s, I’d probably already consumed well over my standard daily caloric intake, I opted to head home without complaint, too. Maybe next year.

And…finally, there’s boeuf bourguignon, which I feel I have to make after seeing the aforementioned film. (Although I’m not totally a fair-weather Julia fan! I’ve read both of the books and liked them a lot!) I’m a little nervous about it — the first step, for instance, is to cut bacon into lardons. Yikes! And I’m not sure I have a 9- to 10-inch fireproof casserole dish that is 3 inches deep. But I think I can handle drying 3 pounds of lean stewing beef. And, you know, perhaps this act will help me commune with Julia and Julie and find some sort of meaning and purpose in my life, too. (For the record, I’m still searching. And, to that end, it’s been a little tough being back in NYC…)

(Ooh — I also really enjoyed it when we were at a restaurant in Norton, Virginia and the waiter described a salmon special with haricot vert…but I’d need sound effects to truly make you appreciate it…)

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